Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational-winning trainer Mike McCarthy is content to allow Independence Hall ‘take a swing’ at a share of the $3m prize-fund in this weekend’s Gulfstream Park contest.
Independence Hall finished only fifth of six, nearly 10 lengths behind Charlatan in the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita Park last month, a race in which he was fancied in the betting for a big run.
He had joined McCarthy from previous trainer Michael Trombetta in the summer and, after impressing in his work at home, readily won an allowance race at Del Mar in his first start for new connections.
McCarthy is at a loss to explain his Malibu run and the trainer admits he’s simply been forced to cross it off and hope for better next time.
“For one reason or another, which I can’t put my finger on, he just did not seem to fire that day,” McCarthy said. “I have to draw a line through it. The horse has trained forwardly since.”
On his previous trip to Gulfstream Park, Independence Hall finished fifth in the 2020 Florida Derby (G1) last spring. Now he’s heading back for the $3m contest on Saturday.
He’s had two breezes since the turn of the year, most recently running six furlongs in 1:12.60 at Santa Anita on Saturday last.
“His work was very, very good,” McCarthy added. “If you bring a horse into a $3m race, I think this is the kind of work you want to bring him in off.”
While conceding his Del Mar win should have been a ‘perfect set-up’ for the Malibu, McCarthy goes on to suggest that the Pegasus Invitational is too good an opportunity to turn down now.
The race offers the highest purse in North America for older horses outside the Breeders’ Cup and McCarthy isn’t keen on waiting around until November for that sort of opportunity to come around again.
“It was one of those things, as some of the invitees started falling by the wayside, this became more and more of an option,” McCarthy said. “It’s $3m. It’s a good spot to take a swing at something like this. You may never get this chance again until Breeders’ Cup time, nine months from now, for this kind of money. Why not?”
McCarthy won the 2019 Pegasus with City of Light and he’s also relishing a chance to join Hall of Famer Bob Baffert as a two-time Pegasus-winning trainer, if things go to plan this weekend.
“That would be awfully nice,” he said. “I’m bringing a horse in who is training as well as I could ask him to be. We’ll see what happens.”